Battling back

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Al Key/DRC
Eighteen-year-old Jackson Strecher, shown here with his girlfriend, Ariel Bailey, on Monday, is working to recover from a rare brain hemorrhage at the Select Rehabilitation Hospital.

UNT student works to recover from brain hemorrhage

Every day is a new challenge for Jackson Strecher.

He undergoes three hours a day of occupational, speech and physical therapies at a Denton rehabilitation facility. He gets around with the use of a wheelchair and wears a helmet to protect an exposed portion of his brain.

He doesn’t remember the day he suffered a rare brain hemorrhage, and said it’s hard to explain what he’s gone through.

But he’s determined to recover.

“It’s good,” he said this week, when asked how he’s doing. “I don’t know. It’s really going well. Yeah, I think I’ve had a lot of experiences.”

The 18-year-old University of North Texas student suffered a brain hemorrhage Jan. 1 that was brought on by a condition known as arteriovenous malformation, an entanglement of arteries and veins.

Since then, he’s undergone two emergency surgical procedures to relieve pressure around his brain and for a blood clot, and he’s scheduled to have reparative brain surgery next month. He moved to the rehab hospital more than a month ago, and will have his surgery in Fort Worth, his family said.

He sometimes struggles to find the words he wants to say, and in the interview this week often looked to his girlfriend, Ariel Bailey, and his father, Mike Strecher, for help.

When asked if he gets frustrated, he responds “maybe” but also agrees with his father that he’s more determined about his rehabilitation than frustrated. He agreed with his father that things are getting better every day.

Jackson Strecher is a 2013 Denton High School graduate who at the time of the hemorrhage was a UNT freshman studying history. He has also been active in the local theater scene, and plays guitar and is one of the founding members of local rock band the Lead Pipes.

Mike Strecher said they’ve been told his son’s recovery — a full recovery — could take up to a couple of years. He said he expects him to be “pretty independent by the end of this year.”

“Yeah, I think so,” Jackson responds back.

He said he would like to return to school next semester.

“But I don’t know,” Jackson said. “Maybe.”

Since suffering his brain hemorrhage, the community has gathered to support him and help him rally back.

On Sunday, more than 400 people attended Jam for Jackson, a kickoff benefit event for the Joining Hands for Jackson fundraising campaign.

The event was held at the Center for the Visual Arts, and included food trucks, live and silent auctions and featured performances by Brave Combo, the Lead Pipes, Thrill Bill, Work in Progress and Ron Fink Trio.

In one afternoon, supporters reached their monthlong fundraising goal and then some to raise $20,000 for the Strecher family, said Donna Trammell, general chairwoman for the Joining Hands for Jackson steering committee.

“It turned out to be a really, truly communitywide event,” Trammell said. “For me personally, it was the most rewarding volunteer thing I’ve ever done, and I think a lot of people felt the same way.”

Jackson was among those who attended the Sunday event. Mike Strecher said it was the first time his son had been out since the hemorrhage in January. Mike Strecher said it touched his heart to see the support for Jackson.

“It was just beautiful. I haven’t seen Jackson enjoy himself that much in two months,” Mike Strecher said. “I’m just amazed by the community. I’ve never felt so at home where I lived.”

Jackson called the event nice and said he was “extremely excited” about it. It was also something that came as a surprise.

“It was fun. Yeah,” he said. “I was overwhelmed. It was just insane.

“The people ... we want to thank [you].”

Mike Barrow, Denton Community Theatre managing director, said he’s not sure if any word other than “wow” describes Sunday’s event. The strong support spoke highly of the Strecher family and the Denton community, he said.

Jackson’s presence at the event and to see his progress “is nothing short of miraculous,” Barrow said.

“It was one of the most heartfelt events I’ve attended in my life,” he said. “Everyone was there for Jackson and for the Strechers and they were extremely generous. I knew it was going to be good, but I think we were all overwhelmed with the response.”

Another fundraiser is slated for next month benefiting the Strechers. All proceeds from ticket sales to a 2 p.m. matinee of Hello Dolly! on April 12 at the Campus Theatre will go to support the family, Barrow said.

Tickets to the show are available for advance purchase online at www.dentoncommunitytheatre.com or by calling 940-382-1915. Throughout the run of Hello Dolly!, April 4-13, prize tickets will be sold for a number of items, with proceeds also going to the Strechers, he said.

Several fundraisers in the last couple of months have supported the Strecher family. An organizer for an event at Denton tea shop Amitea in January said more than $600 was collected for the family. And as of Tuesday afternoon, a fundraising website — www.gofundme.com/HelpforJackson — set up for Jackson Strecher had collected more than $9,800.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.


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